Map (updated)

Map updated to reflect actual route
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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Photos Up!

Photos are now up on my Picasa page.

They're broken down by location.

San Francisco photos here.

Pacific Coast Highway photos here.

Sequioa / Kings Canyon photos here.

And all panoramas I created from those photos can be found here.

Feel free to comment, either here or on the photos themselves :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Photo Delay

There will be a bit of delay getting my photos up, as my camera is on the fritz and for some reason will not let me download photos, and I don't have any other way of transferring from SD cards.

Should have it worked out in a couple days.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Random Thoughts / Observations

First, I do wish I had had cell reception when I was out in the wilderness, just because it would have made this blog far more interesting. I would have liked to have kept up with the updates, both for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of anyone who is reading this.

Some thoughts about San Francisco :
- As with most "modern" cities, I'm always amazed at the urban planning that goes into these places. Streets are numbered intelligently and are relatively easy to navigate (minus the hills). The public transportation, while confusing at first glance, is at least well-maintained and very efficient - not only did BART stations have digital readouts telling you how long until the next train, what type of train it was, and how big it was, but even some BUS stops had similar information. Imagine, a digital display at a bus stop telling you how long until your bus arrives.
- I may have mentioned it below - I can't remember - but I am absolutely amazed by the weather in the Bay area. San Francisco in particular is mind-boggling. There are a half a dozen different micro-climates within the city proper. If you're over by the Golden Gate bridge, it is almost always cloudy, foggy, cold and windy. On the other side of town (maybe 4 miles away), it is much more sunny, warmer, less windy. Inland it is even warmer. I mean, I'm used to it being cooler by the water, that's common, but this is way more than the usual ocean breeze we're talking about here.
- Beyond the city itself, the entire peninsula is similarly varied. From San Francisco to San Jose is 50 miles, and just when I was there, the average temperature in San Fran was around 60, while the temperature in San Jose was near 90. That's a crazy difference, and you didn't need to go all the way to San Jose to feel it - just at my sister's place in Redwood City, maybe halfway between the two, was similarly as hot as San Jose. Even while doing my drive along the coast, far south of the Bay, it stayed cool and foggy for the entire drive, but the few times I ventured inland during that trip the temperature immediately went up almost 20 degrees and the clouds cleared. Just fascinating to me.

I'm sure I'll think of more little tidbits when I do my photo recap next week.

Day 6 Recap

Well today worked out very well, after all my doubt about it. The fog wasn't nearly as bad at Golden Gate as it had been on Sunday, so I got a bunch of photos that hopefully come out well - it was impossible to see the screen of my camera in the sun.

I also hiked up to Coit Tower, which took some doing - the hills in San Fran are a bitch.

Aside from that, I didn't see too much "new" that I hadn't seen on Sunday. No dice on the Alcatraz tours, obviously. I considered taking one of the other various Bay tours that are available, but ended up deciding against it. Overall I wish I could have gone to Yosemite, but I guess it just wasn't in the cards. And I know I would have been tense about making it to the airport in time, so it's probably for the best.

Now I'm sitting at SFO waiting for my flight (still over an hour away). Thank God I still have some HotSpot time from my hotel. Yay for networked hotspots!

Once I get my photos all set up, I will try to do a more in-depth recap of the trip with illustrative photos to both jog my memory and make up for my lack of ability to write well. Knowing me and my impatience with such things, it'll be done two days after I get back (I'm in Seattle until Monday night).

Golden gate

At least it's LESS foggy

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 5 Recap

Today is day 5 - finally caught up.

This morning I woke up, and had a decision to make. The original plan was to go to Yosemite, and camp there. I asked one of the rangers at Sequoia about the state of Yosemite, as I knew there were fires. She said there were some road closures, but the park and campsites were still open. However, she said most of the valley was smoky and might not be too pleasant. So I decided to can that part of my trip - sucks cuz I pre-paid for the campsite, but oh well. Instead, I decided to spend my morning touring the rest of Sequoia Park - actually the other half of the name of the park is Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. So I headed up to King's Canyon. Definitely glad I did - it was a great drive down through the canyon, and I did a nice day hike down the bottom.

Was done there by noonish, and decided to head back towards San Francisco. My flight tomorrow is at 5PM up to Seattle. I figured I'd get a hotel room close to the airport - I'm at a Red Roof Inn - and maybe if I get up early enough, spend the morning in San Francisco before heading over to the airport.

So here I am. I was hoping I could wrangle an Alcatraz tour, but they're sold out for almost two weeks. So next time I'm out here, on my agenda will be Alcatraz and Yosemite.

Tomorrow I'll mention if anything interesting happens in San Fran and try to write up a little recap of the whole experience.

I put up a few photos from Sequoia Park over on Picasa, but as I said before there's a lot of work to do on photos before they're really worth anyone spending any time to look at them.

Day 4 Recap

The first several hours of day 4 was spent driving east towards Sequoia Park. I did take one wrong turn - my only real mis-step of the trip, that set me back a good half hour or so, but nothing serious. I got to Sequoia by 10AM, which was perfect. It took a few hours to drive in, since, again, I was stopping every few minutes to shoot pictures and take in some new view. It was almost a half hour in before I came up to the trees for which the park is named. I didn't realize, but Sequoias actually grow at pretty high altitudes - between 5 and 6 thousand feet - so there was a lot of climbing inovolved.

Once I hit them though... wow. Again, I'm sure photos won't do them justice - and it will be interesting trying to do vertical panoramas, as the trees never fit into a single photo - but they really are ridiculously huge. The first thing of note I came onto was the General Sherman tree, aka the largest tree in the world. They set up a whole little area for it, where you had to hike down from the parking lot to see it. Pretty incredible.

After that, I made my way to Lodgepole, which is one of the main lodges in the park and also where my campground was. I had camp set up by 1PM or so, and went to the visitor center to get some trail information. The woman there was very helpful, and told me of a trail that was about a 2.5 hour hike, perfect considering the time of day. I took my time hiking the trail, but holy crap was it worth it.

Lots of people throw around superlatives every day. For trivial things usually - calling a cookie "the greatest thing I ever tasted", calling a random girl on the street "the most beautiful girl ever." It makes it difficult to describe something truly awe-inspiring. But at the end of this hiking trail, I came into a ravine area, basically surrounded on 3 sides by 1500-foot cliffs , one of which had a waterfall. I literally had my breath taken away. I couldn't get the grin off my face. If you've ever seen Tuckerman's Ravine on Mt. Washington, it was a similar look, but just so much more. Of all the photos I've taken on this trip, this is the one that disappoints me the most - none of them even come close to conveying the awesomeness of this spot.

After the hike, nothing much special. I had some dinner at the lodge - the lodge was really a bunch of little things - a visitor center, gift shop, mini grocery store, snack bar, and deli. After that, I did some reading and went to bed.

Day 3 Recap

So I haven't had phone or internet in 3 days; sorry for the lack of recaps.

Also, I wanted to upload pictures, but a) it's difficult to upload anything significant over this slow-ass hotel internet, and b) it's gonna take me a while to weed out a lot of crap pictures, and put together all the many panoramas I took.

Something like 1200 pictures total for the week, so it's no small task.

Anyway, Day 3 was my coast drive day.

I started in Redwood City, where my sister lives, at around 6:30 AM. I headed immediately west, to Half Moon Bay, on Route 1. It wasn't until about 45 minutes down Route 1 that things really started to get interesting. There was fog the entire day, but it did start to clear enough to see things around 9AM.

There's a reason they say it's the most scenic highway in the world. Some of the views were just amazing. As with other aspects of my trip, photos won't even begin to do it justice (though I did take hundreds of them to try). My limited mastery of the language won't do much to clear up the image either.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I stopped probably 50 times during the drive to enjoy another view and take some photos. Every couple hundred yards the road would twist a different way and the view was completely new and seemed even more spectacular than the last. I thought after a few hours it would get old, but it never did - I always wanted to pull over at the next turnout and just stare at the shoreline.

Aside from the general seashore views, I also briefly drove through the towns of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterrey. Carmel especially was a really neat-looking town - I wish I had had a little more time to stop and walk around, but it was early in the day and I had no idea how long the rest of the day would take. In retrospect I definitely had the time - oh well.

For lunch I stopped at Nepenthe. Really neat place, kinda jutted out above the ocean with a big panoramic deck. Pretty pricey though - a chicken sandwich set me back like 16 bucks.

Eventually I got down towards Morro Bay / San Luis Obispo, which was near where my campsite was. The campsite wasn't too hard to find, though it was in the middle of nowhere. When I got there it was basically empty - no one was there. I was camping by myself, so this was terrifying to me. As it got later a bunch of other people showed up, though. Camping was uneventful, and I was up early to start the next day.

Monday, July 28, 2008


All set up. A bunch more people filled in the campground, pretty cool place.


I swear i stopped 40 times to take pictures, and it never got less amazing. Just wow.

Big sur

More ugly highway


Carmel by the sea


Fisherman's wharf

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 2 Recap

Day 2 was a great day.

I spend the entire day in San Francisco.

My original plan was to start the day at Alcatraz, but I found out that you really need to plan ahead for that; tickets sell out days in advance. So that option was gone.

So instead I took BART up to Union Square. Saw the trolley (see below); the line to get on the stupid thing was RIDICULOUSLY long. Not that I had planned on taking it anyway, but still, who waits two hours or whatever (it had to be that long considering the length of the line) to take a stupid trolley?

Anyway, wandered around Union Square, then started walking up towards AT&T Park. Went through Yerba Buena, and then ended up at the Bay. Walked around AT&T Park, which is a really cool little area, checked out the Bay Bridge, and then started walking west along the Bay. Went through all the Piers, including exploring Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, then headed into Presidio towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Ended up at Crissy Field which is right next to the bridge. Unfortunately, fog was completely covering the area and the bridge wasn't at all visible.

After spending a half hour resting my feet at Crissy Field, my friend Sarah called me and we met up in North Beach, which is the Italian section of San Francisco. Had a nice late lunch / early dinner at Calzone's, which was fantastic (no we didn't get calzones). Then we parted ways and I headed back to BART by way of Chinatown.

Way too many pictures of the day are over on Picasa.


San francisco chinatown... That you see outside your window on this fine warm day mmm

Golden gate with fog

Figures. Stupid fog

Tall ships

Tall ships in sf bay

Cable car

Try and get the rice a roni song out of your head now, i dare you

Day 1 Recap

Not too much to say about yesterday that you can't glean from the few pics I uploaded from my phone. Had to get up at an unGodly hour, which meant I really didn't sleep a wink because I never can when I know I have to be up super early. I also am not capable of sleeping on a plane, so by the time I got to SFO I was literally dizzy I was so tired.

SFO is a nice enough airport, my bags came out pretty quickly and I made my way to the "car rental center".... which was OBSCENELY packed. I can't believe there were that many people renting cars. I've never seen the car desk at any other airport look so full; each desk had at least 30 people waiting in line, some way more than that. Just unreal. And of course my car wasn't there, so I had to go back and get another one. D'oh!

Found my sister's place in Redwood City easy enough. She, like a good sister, took me to In 'n Out Burger, aka Mecca. Then I just hung out in her apartment (which is wicked nice) for a few hours before showering and heading into San Fran to meet up with my friend Jen from college and her husband Jeremy for dinner. We ate at the Gorden Biersch Brewery , which is right underneath the Bay Bridge (per the picture below). Nice seat on the patio, awesome beers and dinner, and of course awesome to see Han and Jer again.

Somehow having two beers actually made me feel a lot less tired, so we hung out for a few hours and then called it a night.

I took the BART to and from San Francisco, to avoid having to deal with parking (parking at the BART station is free). Quite a system - it's very fast, efficient, and pretty clean and nice. A bit loud (to the point of being scarily loud at some points) but that seems like a reasonable sacrifice.

No real pictures from yesterday aside from what you see from my phone; today I'll be doing all the touristy stuff and should have some regular shots that aren't from a grainy cameraphone.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dinner by the bay

Dinner at a brewery by the bay bridge

In n out

The real reason i came to california

Rental cars

This is the rental car center. Wtf

Airport Seating

Old people rocking chairs at logan. Odd choice.

It's Early

Humans weren't meant to be awake at this time

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


So it seems, as is standard operating procedure in California in July, that there are a bunch of wildfires ravaging the region. Particularly (for me) the Big Sur region, where I would hope to drive through.

Here is a map of the fires. Wish I could figure out how to embed it here but I cannot.

It could make for an interesting trip if I'm blocked by fire.....

Friday, June 27, 2008

Initial Itinerary

So, for those who don't know, I'm taking a week or so in late July to explore Northern California. With gas prices so cheap, especially on the west coast, it seems like a perfect time, doesn't it?

Basically, my mom is getting married on August 4th up in Washington. She offered to fly everyone out for it, so I figured I'd leverage the airfare into a little vacation. I've always wanted to see San Francisco, drive the Pacific Coast Highway, and see the Seqouia forests that it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

And since everyone asks with incredulity, yes I am doing this alone. I have friends (and a sister) in the Bay area that I'll be meeting up with but the majority of the trip will be solo, which I think adds to the adventure. Though I'd certainly welcome hangers-on.

I'll try and edit this post as my plans change. Once the trip starts I'll try to do blog updates along the way, hopefully with pictures.

The Bay Area - July 26 and July 27

I'll be arriving at San Francisco Airport around 12:30 in the afternoon on Saturday the 26th, and picking up a rental car. I'm not sure how this day will play out; I'm hoping to find someplace to stow the car for the day so I can go exploring, but I've been told that this isn't an easy task in the city. I'll be staying with my sister down in Redwood City, which is accessible by public transportation, so I may park down by her and just use one of the area's many confusing myriad of trains or buses.

Things to see in San Francisco
Between Saturday and Sunday, I'd like to see the following, and would LOVE to get as many ideas as possible to fill this list :
  • Alcatraz
  • Golden Gate (duh)
  • that crooked street
  • the piers
  • ?
Saturday night I hope to be meeting some friends in San Fran for dinner / drinks. Sunday night I will most likely have a nice family dinner with my sis, and try to get to sleep early as I will be leaving very early for my next day of excitement....

Pacific Coast Highway - July 28

Yes, I know I should spend WAY more than one day driving the Pacific Coast Highway. To be fair, I'm only driving a small section of it. A full map of my planned route can be found here. I tried to embed this map up above, as you can see, but it didn't quite work out - for some reason you can't embed a Google Map with the purple line showing your route, it'll only show the map itself. Oh well.

I'm going to leave Redwood City as early as I can possibly manage to get the most travel time to explore. But mostly the entire day will just be spent driving and enjoying the views and random stops along the way for pictures and exploration.

From Redwood City I'll head west to Half Moon Bay, cut south towards Santa Cruz, through Monterrey and Carmel, then down through the Big Sur towards Morro Bay.

The only caveat is I have to be down to the Morro Bay area with enough time to set up camp before dark, as I have a campsite booked at Cerro Alto Campgrounds.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park - July 29

From my campground near Morro Bay, I will drive the ~4 hours or so east to Sequoia Park. I again have a campsite booked, at the Lodgepole area of the park (yay for cheap "lodging"!) so the plan is pretty open - explore the park as much as possible before it's time to settle down into the campsite. I don't think there will be any shortage of splendor for me to spend my time exploring.

Yosemite National Park - July 30

Not much different from above - leave campsite early, drive north to Yosemite explore, camp (in Hodgdon Meadow, right outside the actual park). Props to the The National Park Service for making reservations of all these campsites so easy, by the way. We'll see how it actually works out once I get there but assuming it does, it was very painless and a nice way to plan a trip.

Back to the Airport - July 31

My original plan was to make this entire trip a road trip. I was going to do the above activities, and then spend the 31st of July and the 1st of August driving up to the place where the wedding is happening (Long Beach, Washington). However, between gas and the ridiculous premiums they charge for one-way car rentals, it turned out to be MUCH more cost-effective to just get a quick flight to Seattle instead. So that's what I'm doing. My flight leaves in the late afternoon, so that should give me time to pack up the campsite, drive to San Francisco, return the car and get on the plane. I have a hotel room booked in Seattle (I think I'll have had my fill of camping by then), and on the 31st my brother and Katie land in Seattle and we'll all drive down to Long Beach together.

And that's the plan, Stan.


This blog is serving two purposes.

One, a selfish one, as a place for me to organize my thoughts and plans for my trip to Northern California next month.

Two, for anyone interested to follow my trip or even make suggestions on where I should go while I am making my way around. I'll put up my itinerary in a few minutes.